To the passive observer, the art of quilting at its simplest is taking large pieces of fabric, cutting the materials into smaller pieces and sewing them back into a larger piece of fabric.
For members who belong to the New Lenox Community Park District’s quilt club, quilting creates meaning for them in more ways than one.
Phyllis Tolen recounted being one of the three original quilt club members.
“I did start this [group] before I retired [in 1994,]” she said.
Tolen said the group has grown over the years.
“It didn’t take very long before we had a few more [members,]” she said.
To date, the quilt club consists of approximately 12 active members.
Tolen said she loves how the group inspires her and brings out her creative side, and added the quilt club is helping her to cope with the loss of her husband.
“I learn things from everybody,” she said. “I think I like that.”
Janice Eisses said the quilt club is all about the camaraderie built between the group’s members.
“I never knew any of these ladies [prior to attending the group,] and they’re just wonderful,” she said.
Eisses said when she dropped in for her first quilt club meeting, she enjoyed it so much she never left the group.
“I just moved out here, and I had retired,” she said. “I always had wanted to do the quilting.”
Joy Carlson joined the group about nine years ago and said she turned to the quilt club after hitting a rough patch in her life.
“My husband passed away in 2008, and Phyllis [Tolen] and I go back because she was my son’s fifth-grade teacher, but we never saw each other until 2008,” Carlson said. “She invited me to come here. I had never quilted in my life. I mean, I sewed, but my sister is a quilter—makes many, many baby quilts.”
Carlson said the way the group’s members strive to help one another is inspiring.
“I like to try all different [patterns,]” she said. “When I see something that I really like, I will try doing that particular pattern.”
Some of the initiatives the group has completed in the past include making and donating a quilt to a family who lost their home due to a fire. Currently, quilt club is in the middle of making potholders—from fabric donated by the New Lenox Township staff member Joe Ladislaus—for the New Lenox Township food pantry.
The quilt club meetings are typically informal and provide a space where people can enjoy food, make quilts and enjoy one another’s company. Members of the group work on individual projects they would like to pursue. Additionally, the quilt club holds a show and tell when they meet to share their creations with one another.
Kay Johnson brought in a quilt she had completed to show and tell.
“It was a jelly roll,” she said of her creation. “There’s something called the jelly roll… You buy a package, and there [are] strips of two and a half inch fabric, and there’s usually about 40 strips in there. They’re all rolled up like a jelly roll and tied with a ribbon.”
Johnson said it didn’t take long to finish the quilt.
“It’s a quick way to use up one of those pre-cut things,” she said. “All you do is [put] these side by side by side, cut them in half, sew the sides together.”
Johnson said the reason she selected the jelly roll was simple.
“It was just there,” she said. “I had the jelly roll.”
Tolen agreed, and went on to say the need to quilt is contagious.
“[Kay] bought the jelly roll,” she said, laughing. “She just had to do something with it.”
The quilt club is open to new members and willing to teach if others are interested in joining the group.
“They can do handwork, they can crotchet, they can knit if they want,” Tolen said.
Tolen added, “We all sort of have our own little niche.”
Members of the quilt club typically meet at 10 a.m. the first Wednesday and 11 a.m. the third Friday of every month at the Guy Sell Community Room in the basement located at 1090 S. Cedar Rd.